Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dutch Angles

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We all know what Dutch Angles are, right?  For those who aren't sure, a Dutch Angle is one where you cant or slant your camera to varying degrees, to one side or the other, when you frame and snap the shot. You can also crop images that weren't snapped with a Dutch Angle in order to produce the same result. (Although I'm much more a Dutch Angle guy when I shoot my images, rather than when I crop them.)

Personally, I like shooting images with Dutch Angles. I don't shoot them that way all the time, most of the time, or regularly for that matter. But when it makes sense to do so, when I want the image to benefit from being somewhat and obviously off-kilter, i.e., not level or plumb. When that's what I'm looking for, it's a Dutch Angle I might decide to use.

How do images benefit from shooting with Dutch Angles? Generally, Dutch Angles add interest to photos simply because they reflect a small piece of photo-documented reality (within the perimeters of the photos) with intentionally unreal, out-of-sync-with, or less-often-seen perspectives.

Naturally, all your images won't benefit from Dutch Angles. Dutch Angles are very subjective in terms of their effectiveness. When Dutch Angles work well, they can work really well. When they don't, they don't.  There is no objective way of "grading" a photograph's merits based on the use of a Dutch Angle. It works or it doesn't.

Some genres of photography generally benefit more so from Dutch Angles than others.  Portraits of most any kind can benefit from Dutch Angles.  Landscapes and seascapes, on the other hand, are less apt to work well using Dutch Angles. That's not to say landscapes or seascapes can't ever benefit from shooting with Dutch Angles, but they're less likely to do so and that's why they're less seen. I've seen more than a few cityscapes, however, where Dutch Angles were used to great effect!

Mostly, Dutch Angles work best when they're intentionally composed and snapped that way and the intentional canting or slanting of the camera works. (For lack of a better word.)  A seascape, for instance, where the ocean's horizon is somewhat out of level because the photographer did not frame or crop the image level isn't an example of a Dutch Angle. Rather, it's mostly an example of a photographer not paying enough attention to detail when they shot or cropped the image.

How do you know when an image will benefit from a Dutch Angle?  You don't. Not entirely and not in a 100% guaranteed sort of way. Instead, effectively utilizing Dutch Angles are mostly a product of your style and personal sense of visual aesthetics, much like all the rest of the elements of your compositions whenever you're snapping pics, glamour pics or others.

When I decide to snap photos utilizing Dutch Angles, I usually look for lines in the images that will be strengthened by becoming diagonal lines within the photo's composition. Obviously, turning level and plumb lines into diagonal lines is easily accomplished by slanting or canting our cameras when we're shooting. For photography, much like most all visual art forms, lines are not only the most basic elements of the work, they're often (potentially) the strongest elements of them; of their composition, that is. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that lines are often  *the* strongest element of many images. And diagonal lines, more often than not, are the strongest of the strong!

Lines are one of the classic, Six Elements of Design. The Six Elements of Design are: Line, Shape, Color, Form, Space, and Texture.  All six of those elements can be (and often are) used quite effectively within the composition of almost any photograph you might capture. If you haven't spent some time learning about the Six Elements of Design, I suggest you do so. Your photography will benefit greatly from the time you invest in that part of your photography education.

The pretty girl at the top of this post (as well on the top of a pool table) is Penthouse Pet, Tori Black. I snapped the pic at a location house high in the hills above Studio City, CA.  For that particular photo, I decided a Dutch Angle would add power to the image, more so since the otherwise level lines of the pool table would magically become diagonal lines, strengthening (with the Dutch Angle) the image in general, and also by underscoring Tori's sexy, predatory expression and cat-like, pose.


jim kay said...

the Dutch Angle definitely works well with this photo! I've been afraid to use them because I've read that it's the chicken's way out. You've proven that wrong and I'll start using it some times (and I believe that is your point--use it some time not all the time!). Thanks!

jimmyd said...

@Jim Kay: I haven't seen the "it's the chicken way out" commentary but I disagree with that assessment completely. I'm not saying Dutch Angles are always the way to go or even often the way to go but, when they work, they work. It's as simple as that. And I'm all for using techniques or approaches to my images that work, be they a "chicken way out" or not. Why wouldn't any photographer use what works when it works?